His youth in the nearby Bavarian town of Traunstein was overshadowed by the rise of the Nazi party, a regime he called “sinister” and that “banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good.”
After a brief forced conscription of two months into the German army at the end of the Second World War, Ratzinger and his older brother, Georg, resumed their studies for the priesthood, first in Freising and then in Munich.
Ordained a priest with his brother on June 29, 1951, Ratzinger finished his doctoral studies in theology and became a university teacher and vice president at the prestigious University of Regensburg in Bavaria. His reputation as an intellectual prompted an invitation to serve as an expert, or peritus, at the Second Vatican Council from Cardinal Joseph Frings, the archbishop of Cologne. He rapidly distinguished himself as an eminent theologian.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI named him archbishop of Munich and Freising and, later that same year, gave him the cardinal’s red hat.
Just four years later, in 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department of the Vatican dedicated to promoting and defending the teachings of the Catholic faith. He held the post until the death of John Paul II in 2005.
After his retirement in 2013, the pope emeritus resided in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, a small convent built in 1994 inside the Vatican City walls, dedicating himself to a life of penance and prayer.
This is a developing story.
For the past 20 years, Dr. Matthew E. Bunson has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including: "The Encyclopedia of Catholic History," "The Pope Encyclopedia," "We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI," "The Saints Encyclopedia"and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
AC Wimmer is founding Editor-in-Chief of CNA Deutsch. The multilingual Australian with Bavarian roots has worked as a journalist and news executive across the globe.